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Top Notch Polymer Nanocomposite & Energy Researcher Joins the NanoCenter

April 02, 2008

Professor Brian Benicewicz, a world class scientist and intellectual leader in research on fuel cell membranes and polymer nanocomposites will be joining the University of South Carolina in 2008 as endowed chair of the Center of Economic Excellence for Polymer Nanocomposite Research. The S.C. CoEE Program was established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2002, with $200 million appropriated from the South Carolina Education Lottery Account to fund the program through 2010. The legislation authorizes the state's three public research institutions (Clemson, MUSC and USC) to use state funds to create CoEEs in research areas that will advance South Carolina's economy. Each CoEE is awarded between $2 million and $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with federal, private or municipal funds.

Professor Benicewicz began his career in industry at Ethicon Inc. and Celanese Research Company and then spent 12 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory where he led a first rate team of polymer researchers. He is currently director of the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis and a Professor for Chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Professor Benicewicz has commercialized many of his innovations, is involved in a start up company and has had a number of high profile industrial collaborations (Shell Oil, Aventis, Axiva, Rohm and Haas, Celanes Ventures).

Dr Gordon Calundann, the Chief Technology Officer of BASF Fuel Cell GmbH/Inc. (BFC) in Somerset New Jersey comments on Professor Benicewicz’s move to the University of South Carolina as

"…a triple-win event. USC with its powerful and still developing infrastructure in fuel cell technology now adds to this growing capability the nation’s leading academic researcher and laboratory in high temperature polymer electrolyte membranes. This is the lab that played the key role in the development of polybenzimidazole-based membranes. BFC and its predecessor company, PEMEAS, have supported this work for more than 7 years. Of course, with Prof Benicewicz, USC also adds a world-class synthetic polymer scientist to its already distinguished staff in the alternate energy field… Finally, and perhaps most important from my viewpoint, this move can only aid and accelerate BASF Fuel Cell’s successful commercial development of its Celtec® high temperature membrane electrode assemblies."

The addition of Professor Benicewicz to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and his leadership role as the Endowed Chair of the Center of Economic Excellence for Polymer Nanocomposite Research at the NanoCenter will propel the University of South Carolina as a nationally and internationally recognized center of research and education on polymer nanocomposites, provide incentives for further industrial collaborations in South Carolina and educate a workforce needed in the polymer and energy-technology related industries of the 21st century.

The University of South Carolina has been designated by the Carnegie Foundation as an institution of "very high research activity," its highest distinction given to only 62 public research institutions. Signature research areas include hydrogen fuel cells and other alternative energies, health sciences, nanotechnology, environmental sciences, and software and technology to support the knowledge economy.

Professor Benicewicz’s laboratories will be located in the second floor of the new research building Horizon I in Innovista.